Traveling to Orlando from the Midwest on a 7:30am flight means getting up at 3:30am. The sacrifice of sleep is a small price when you are meeting good friends and in fact the anticipation makes it hard to sleep! Our arrival at O’hare went smoothly, the flight was leaving on time and we even got better seats once we got to the gate. Vagablond was given a complimentary upgrade to first, and tried to give it to JoJo or Deb – but they insisted I take the seat. As a small token of sharing, and courtesy of the first class kitchen, I arrived with a warm cinnamon roll for Deb and a Bloody Mary for Jo Jo about halfway through the flight. We had a minor scare with Deb’s bag once we arrived – but the United luggage service worked really hard to track the bag down and make sure it did not go on a free cruise via the “Magical Express” program.
With the crisis averted – we were on our way to our offsite hotel, The Sheraton Vistana Villas Resort. On past trips both Deb and Jo Jo had stayed at an onsite Disney Resort, and this past July Vagablond and 2 daughters had stayed at Art of Animation resort. We made the conscious decision to stay off site on this trip based on past experience, cost and value. It was not a decision we regret at all for this trip. The Sheraton Vistana Villas were very nice, we had a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom villa – with kitchen, living and dining room and a screened patio. While we were not in the room for hours on end, the time we spent there was very enjoyable and the coffee pot was a very welcome feature. The hotel staff was very friendly and helpful when our washer drum came loose during our first load, we called and it was fixed the very next day. We spent time at the pools twice and enjoyed the loungers, snack bar, cocktails and hot tubs.
We all agreed at the end of the vacation that if we had stayed at a Disney resort we would not have had the space to spread out, would have had to share one bathroom, probably no patio and certainly no coffee pot. While a Disney villa would have been as nice – it would have been 3 times more expensive. I want to share details on the package we purchased for the trip, as an FYI and a comparison for people interested in cutting cost. Vagablond is a member of Costco and we purchased a package deal through Costco Travel without airfare. Here is how it breaks down:
We purchased Airfare through the United website at $95 round trip per person – That is Not a typo – This was ROUND TRIP.
Purchased a Costco package to Disney World for $2052.00 –($684 each) it included:
6 nights-2 Bdrm 2 Bath Villa & $50 resort credit (we used this for snacks and drinks at the pool)
7 Days of a full size rental car from Alamo
5 Day BASE Ticket to Disney – (no park hopper – but we were planning to do one park a day)
Our total cost for 6 days came out to $779 per person for flight, very nice lodging, a full size car AND our tickets to Disney which is $129 per person per day for Air, Car, Hotel and Park tickets. If you buy the 5 day base ticket on the Disney site – the cost for that alone is $335.38 with tax.
We spent one of our days moving from Disney Springs where parking is free, to a resort where we had to connect to take a bus to the park, then at the end of the day taking a boat to a resort to connect to a bus that would go to Disney Springs. The transportation system was crowded, slow and we spent a total of 3.5 hours traveling on trains, trams, boats and buses that day. IF we would have had to do that for 6 days we would have gone crazy. Based on all of our past experiences we knew that staying at a resort does not necessarily afford the same comfort or freedom that a rental car.
We all decided that the rental car was the way to get around after that. We did find a work around for the $20 per day parking on one day, we made a reservation at Rainforest Café near Animal Kingdom – we told the parking attendant we had a reservation and did not have to pay the $20 to park. The practice of charging “non resort” guests to park is something that Disney should rethink. Three women visiting the parks are spending a lot of money – on tickets, souvenirs, food and drink.